Sunrise at Bodie Island Lighthouse (Nags Head)
©2014 Terrell Neasley
“Exceed your customer’s expectations. If you do, they’ll come back over and over. Give them what they want – and a little more.” 
~ Sam Walton

Continuing this series with another great photography-related company, I wanted to round things out with another company servicing a different aspect of photo. In Part I, I covered a camera manufacturer. Part II looked at details of one of the best run lighting companies out there. This time around, I wanted to focus on the next arena photographers seek to fulfill the remainder of their photographic wants. After you have your camera and lenses and you’ve taken care of all your lighting requirements, the next thing you look for are camera accessories.

ProMaster (Photographic Research Organization) has been around for almost 60 years as a privately held cooperative. That’s right. Its owned by member retailers, like B&C Camera instead of being a single entity incorporated business. And one of the great benefits to being served by a company like this is that the “shareholders” are more than just a bunch of investors who sit back and stare at the bottom line. A business structure like this means its managed and owned by expert business retailers who actually know the markets they serve. Uniting together like this allows them to capitalize on the collective buying power that help influence the market and get us these great prices.

Mossy Oaks Next to Currituck Beach Lighthouse (Corolla)
©2014 Terrell Neasley

So what is it about ProMaster that I like? Well, for starters, focusing on the accessories market has pulled some attention away from the big name manufacturers in the photography industry. Maybe back in the day, a solid argument could be made that a better product could be had from buying original equipment manufacturer items, parts, and accessories. A Canon lens hood was designed exclusively for Canon lenses and a “knock-off” lens hood would “never do” as a replacement. But that meant you also paid a premium for branded equipment.

Well, that was in the past. Today, technology has leveled the playing field in two specific areas. One is in the material. Polycarbonate plastics have come a long way. Polymers and synthetics have advanced to improve engineering designs making them light-weight, durable, and inexpensive. Along with the materials, Computer-aided Design and Manufacturing  allows a company to quickly and efficiently use these new materials to manufacture products and shorten the time from sketch to a finished good. When you can now make a product that’s as great a quality as what the big name manufacturer can do, then the only thing extra you pay for is the brand name and goodwill.

Looking out from Currituck Beach Lighthouse (Corolla)
©2014 Terrell Neasley

So that’s where the buying power comes in. Presently, ProMaster can command quality and reasonable prices and truly compete with “Big Brands”. When I need a cable release to do time-lapse, I can get a Canon for $180. OR, I can pick up the ProMaster Multi-Function RF Timer Remote for $100 and also do it wirelessly. See what I’m saying? Or if I don’t need the timer feature, I can just get the Wired Remote Shutter Release Cable for $20 and it works! You can even buy just the cable attachment for it specific for your camera. As a photography instructor, I keep several Nikon, Canon, and Sony cable attachments just because students forget them. You’ll pay $70 for the Canon RS-80. Ever lose that thing? What’s it feel like to shell out another $70 bucks when you want to do some astrophotography and can’t find it?

These guys have thousands of SKU’s in their inventory under a plethora of product categories. They sell everything from SD card holders to bags, light stands, full studio lighting kits, filters, tripods, batteries for everything, battery grips, lens accessories, extension tubes…(with contacts to AF), and… tell you what…it’ll be easier to just let you name something and play the odds. Chances are, they have it. But guess what! If they don’t. Easy-Peasy! Because they are a private collective, they don’t have the red-tape and politics of having to go through miles of paperwork and approvals to bring a new product to market. If they want it, they’ll buy it or design fabricate it. Too easy.

Then you mix in the fact that ProMaster has no middlemen. Nope. Everything goes straight to the member retailers. Your in-store salespeople become the knowledgeable “reps” that bring you up to speed on your choices based on your individual need. All I’m saying is with ProMaster in the mix, you now have viable options. I don’t know. You may not be like me, but for myself, I like options. With no middle men, having to take a piece of the pie, that means lower costs for you. Us. Er’body!

Tracie and I, sole occupants, spending the night on Shackleford Banks, NC
©2014 Terrell Neasley

Now, here is the nitty-gritty, though. They’ve got this pledge thing they call the “ProMaster Promise”, which is a one-year unconditional warranty. And it goes a little something like this:

“Our promise of satisfaction; 
We want you to be 100% satisfied with our ProMaster products. If for any reason, your ProMaster product fails within one year of date of purchase, return the item to your ProMaster dealer and it will be exchanged for you at no charge.”

Now tell me. Who does a guarantee like that? Show me someone else who does it and I’ll show you a badass in the field of customer service. In most cases that warranty will hold up for 30 days…max, with other companies. These guys just said ONE YEAR…UNCONDITIONAL!! Let me break it down for you. Picture this: Ten months after you buy it, your tripod snaps. Okay, cool. Bring it back and get another one. There’s no waiting period to conduct an investigation and maybe you’ll get another one in six to eight weeks. Bring it in. They check it out at the store. They take the broke one to the back and come back with another new one in the box and say, “Have a nice day. Now get your butt back out there and shoot.” How do I know this…because I own the carbon fiber XC-525c and that actually happened. I like carbon fiber. If you don’t want to spring for CF, then go for the aluminum XC525 and pick your color.

And if you’re in a member store like B&C Camera, just make sure they log your name and email address onto your receipt at time of purchase. 10 months down the road, you may not have kept up with your receipt. At B&C Camera, you can take it up there anyway and just have them look up your name and email and they can find everything you bought, reprint your receipt, and you’re good to go. That promise goes for everything.

Inside Currituck Beach Lighthouse (Corolla)
©2014 Terrell Neasley

I’ve been most impressed with their tripods, LED and studio light kits, bags, and the HGX filters. I switched from B+W’s and made all my UV filters HGX, or as we call them at the store, the Reds, because they come in a red case. I’ve lost a lens cap and just never bothered with a buying another one because I had the HGX filter on the front of it. If you ever scratch it, they’ll replace it. They are THAT good and worth the extra cheese if you are putting it on a nice lens.

I’ve consulted for different businesses that need a studio set up to do product photography, portrait work, etc. I also do One on One Photography classes and toward the end of my week-long course, several students want an all-in-one lighting set up. Having the studio light kits that already include everything you need in one travel bag has proven essential. They make things easy, quick, and simple for both studio flash and LED lighting that adjusts both in power and color temperature. If you want, you can even RENT some ProMaster Light kits to try them out first.

I can’t tell the difference between my Sony batteries and my ProMaster batteries at roughly half the cost. However, I did indeed notice a stark difference when we were out of both Sony AND ProMaster batteries. I went down the street and bought a no-name brand. The difference was strikingly different. I chucked it and waited on my ProMaster.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Outer Banks, NC
©2014 Terrell Neasley

So yeah, I’m a fan. But just like you, I’ve had questions from time to time, which is why I think I’ll start recording videos of head to head tests of different ProMaster brand products. I’ll be testing durability, accuracy, and the overall results I get from what ProMaster produces vs. the bigger name brand products. This will be done in “lab” fashion as well as actual results in the field. I plan to get back to my 3-month Southeast Asia plans soon and I think that’ll be a good time for some field work…hopefully towards the end of November! I’ll let you know what ProMaster gear I take with me.

And that’s the series on Customer Service delivering more than they promise in genres of photography while serving the same people, like you and I. I hope you give these different companies your consideration and hopefully patronage. I am certain you will not find your trust misplaced.

Tracie and I, sole occupants, spending the night on Shackleford Banks, NC
©2014 Terrell Neasley